Live a Stress-Free Life
We live in a world full of demands and complexities, where we thrive on performance, competition and perfection. Your mind is exposed to countless thoughts each day and stress has become an extensive setback for many individuals within today’s society. It manifests itself in our professional and personal lives. Its mechanisms are complex, as it wreaks havoc in the human body, leading to depression, low self-esteem, destroying creativity, and isolating individuals from family and friends.
The reality is we will all experience stress. The beautiful thing is we get to choose how we are going to respond to it. We have the power to build an unstoppable mindset, and a strong foundation. Our mind is a powerful weapon. It deserves our undivided attention, supplying the confidence and strength to endure any challenge that life throws our way. By implementing effective tools into your daily life, you will be promoting a healthier, happy peaceful existence.
Living a positive life means different things to different individuals. For most, it is about the simple pleasures that make them happy, the compassionate deeds, the personal goals they strive to achieve, the relationships which are nurtured, and the legacy which is left behind. Sincere personal fulfillment is generally the collective result - embracing life’s little moments - that makes life magical.
While it would be impractical to eliminate all stress, it is important to be able to minimize it where possible. There is good news…it is easy to learn simple techniques that may make a world of difference.
What is stress? Stress is often described as a feeling of being overwhelmed, agitated or anxious that interferes with our ability to get on with our normal life. When we endure stressful events, our bodies respond, which activates the nervous system and releases hormones (such as adrenalin or cortisol). These hormones cause physical changes in the body that help us to react quickly and effectively to get through the stressful situation. This is release is sometimes referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response.
Symptoms of stress can be divided into four main categories; these are Physical, Medical, Emotional, and Social.
Physical Symptoms – Headaches, muscle tension, aches and pains, sleep disturbance, insomnia, nightmares, upset stomach, indigestion, diarrhea, fatigue, burnout, or loss of appetite/ increase in eating
Medical Symptoms – High blood pressure, weakened immune system, heart palpitations, or nervousness.
Emotional Symptoms – Anxiety, agitation, anger, irritability, depression, feeling overwhelmed, moody, tearful, or difficulty concentrating.
Social Symptoms – Low self-esteem, lack of confidence, increased isolation, relationship problems, low work performance, or using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.
Some types of stress
Acute stress is a brief and specific response to the demands or pressures of a situation, such as a deadline, a performance, or facing-up to a difficult challenge or traumatic event. Acute stress is a physical response to a perceived threat to your well-being.
Episodic acute stress occurs when an individual experiences acute stress multiple times. These kinds of repetitive stress episodes may be due to a series of very real stressful challenges.
Chronic stress can lead to serious health problems as it disrupts nearly every system in your body. There is a constant feeling of stress that can negatively affect your health if left untreated. It can be caused by every day pressures of balancing personal and professional demands, by traumatic events, or thru prolonged emotional pressures with an individual perceiving he or she has little control.
Work related stress occurs when your mobile won’t stop ringing, your inbox is overflowing, and deadlines are piling up. You are working longer hours and there seems no end to the increasing demands on you. Symptoms can include feeling undervalued, unappreciated, or struggling to remember why you liked your job in the first place.
Identify warning signs that tell you when you are getting stressed. These vary from person to person, but might include things like tensing your jaw, grinding your teeth, getting headaches, listening to your self-talk (that little voice in your head of doom or woe), or feeling irritable and short tempered. Monitor your state of mind throughout the day. If you feel stressed, write down the cause, your thoughts and your mood. Once you know what is bothering you, develop a plan for addressing it. Identify triggers which raise our stress levels and make it more difficult for us to manage. If you know what your likely triggers are, aim to identify or anticipate them, then practice calming yourself down beforehand or find ways to remove a trigger. Triggers can include late nights, deadlines, interacting with certain people, hunger, or even over-tired children. Establishing routines can add predictable rhythms in your day and can be very calming and reassuring, helping you to manage your stress.
Ways to work out the stress in your life
Pursue your passion – Your passions are what makes life worth living; it gives our lives true meaning and purpose. Each time you work on something you love, it creates joy inside you. Finding a way to use your passion to give back to the world will give your life ultimate meaning and those feelings will reduce stress.
Be self-aware – Remain mindful of what you do; make sure you are living life according to your principles, your life purpose, and what you are passionate about. Review your actions each day, taking stock of those that strayed from your path while you work towards correcting any incidents in the future.
Focus and Time management - Before you start your day, create a list of three goals that you find fulfilling and meaningful. Don’t chase all of them at once only to make little progress on them; rather, place all your energy on them one at a time. Tackle the hardest thing first. Do not make your list to long. By placing too many things on your list, you’ll have the urge to multi-task, which is not good, and you can end up feeling overwhelmed. Not only will you alleviate some of the stress associated with trying to juggle so many tasks, but you will reduce your stress levels significantly.
Don’t compare yourself to others – We need to keep in mind that we are completely different people than those we are comparing ourselves to; we have completely different perspectives. Comparing ourselves to others will only result in decreased self-esteem and increase anxiety.
Practice relaxation – Make time to practice relaxation daily. Set aside time to calm your mind and body; this will help your mind, body and nervous system to settle and readjust. Consider trying some of the following things:
- Learn a formal technique such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep and controlled breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
- Make time to absorb yourself in a relaxing activity such as gardening, art, or listening to music.
- Plan things to do each day that you look forward to and which give you a sense of pleasure, like reading a book.
- Writing in a journal is a practical way to process your emotions, gain insight and clarity. By setting aside ten minutes in the mornings and evenings to journal, you commit time to yourself each day that allows you to check in, express your emotions. Redirect and focus your mind.
- Move in rhythmic movements like running, walking, swimming, dancing, rowing, or climbing to sooth your body; get moving to keep lethargy at bay and ward off health issues.
- Practice mindful exercises; focus your thoughts on sensations in your limbs and how your breathing complements your mind’s energy.
Positive Thinking and Attitudes – Develop habits of positive thinking; often this starts with self-talk and or focusing our thoughts. The endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through our minds daily can set our mood, either in a positive or negative direction. Directing your self-talk to the positive can have a powerful effect on your body and mind; immunity is one area where our they thoughts and our attitudes can have a particularly powerful influence.
Faith – Your faith and spirituality are more than just comforting rituals to religious individuals; positive impact on mood and mental health. Faith generates optimism, enriches interpersonal relationships, creates support systems and enhances quality of life.
Support and Communication – A strong social support network can be critical to help you through the stress of tough times, whether you’ve had a bad day at work or a year filled with loss or chronic illness. Add to that critical communication as vital in creating and maintaining relationships. Since your supportive family, friends and co-workers are such an important part of your life, it’s never too soon to cultivate these important relationships; having a strong network can provide a sense of belonging.
Improve wellbeing – Finding ways to work more laughter into your day can be effective route to stress relief. Laughter is the best medicine, as the adage goes; it is fun to share a good laugh. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Rest your mind, make it a priority to get 7-8 hours of sleep, cut back on the caffeine, remove distractions such as televisions or computers from your bedroom, and go to be at the same time each night. Become more mindful of what you eat, how much you eat, and how you care for yourself. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy food rather than grabbing a salty or sugary snack as a false pick-me-up.
Music – Music can alter your physiology in ways that help you relieve stress. It’s an enjoyable, passive route to stress relief. Creating a personalized playlist for various moods can help you to relieve stress passively, enjoyably, and conveniently. The soothing power of music is well-established with a unique link to our emotions; listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies.
Go Natural – Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, can reduce anger or fear, and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
Make someone smile – Think about someone else’s happiness and it will help us to realise our immense impact that our attitude and expression has on the people around us. Do something that both honours your beliefs and passions, while giving something back to the world. By cultivating more of these activities, you will find your life has more meaning and purpose behind it.
Even after you implement a few or all these tools, you are still going to feel stressed occasionally. Learning to handle stress in healthy ways in very important. Managing stress is about planning in order to be able to cope effectively with daily pressures. The goal is to strike a balance between life, work, relationships, relaxation and fun. By doing this you are more apt to deal with daily stress triggers and meet these challenges head on.
Disclaimer: Please note; l am neither a doctor nor naturopath. If you have any concerns/conditions/psychological problems, it is strongly recommended that you seek individual professional help from a qualified medical doctor.